A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. But… there is no word for a parent who loses a child, that’s how awful the loss is!
When Your Only Child Is Murdered – (Are you still a parent?)
To have one’s child murdered is the ultimate tragedy in life. What word do we use for a parent whose child has been murdered? There is no word that I know of, to express that kind of pain. It is the most intense grief known. Parents feel that a vital and core part of them has been ripped away.
When your only child has been murdered, your grief is unique. You no longer have someone in whom you can invest your love and energy. You become fearful of the unknown future. You question, “Am I still a parent”. Yes, you will always be a mother or father to your deceased child.
If you are a single parent, widow, or widower, you may be facing the grief alone. Life as you knew it feels shattered, and you may believe that you will never be able to pick up the pieces and continue on. The feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, anger, frustration, anxiety, fear and sadness are all normal. How could you possibly feel anything else?
How the Loss of an Only Child Can Affect Your Health
During the first few months of your loss, you may need to have a physical check-up. If you have pre-existing health problems they can worsen due to the stress, and your immune system may be compromised, thereby making you more vulnerable to illness. Sleep deprivation is frequently experienced during this time. Drugs and alcohol can be tempting to someone who is trying to avoid emotions and delay the grieving process. This only compounds the pain. At some point one will have to face the feelings, in addition to any problems the drugs or alcohol may create. It is important to have a continual and open dialogue with your doctor.
How Do You Reinvest In Life?
Embrace the love and memories of your child. Nothing can take your memories. As time passes, and it does, try to channel the love that you shared with your child in directions that will bring you peace, serenity and eventually a form of healing that gives you a sense of hope for the future.
As a bereaved parent of a murdered child, you desperately need a listener who is accepting, supportive and willing to listen patiently to stories that are often repetitive. Repeating stories and memories of your child is therapeutic. Each time the story is told, the finality and the reality of your loss sinks in a little more.
Seeking professional counselling, religious or spiritual guidance is helpful depending on your needs and beliefs. Some people find the experience of another person who has been through a similar situation invaluable. Try to find a peer support group, where you can share your loss with others. This can be immensely powerful and healing. Being able to share your feelings and grief in a safe environment where only others who have had the same experience can provide support and tremendous growth as you work through your feelings and grief. Reinvest in life by carrying the beautiful and meaningful memories of your child with you every day. Instead of fearing special occasions, embrace them by doing things to commemorate his or her life. It is understandable that you may think no one can comprehend your suffering and it would be true to say that no one can fully appreciate your pain – it is unique to your own experience.
Does Grieving Ever End?
As time goes on, you will very slowly move through a journey like no other. Waves of emotions may sweep in and out, just when you least expect it. One can never guess when an emotional button might be pushed, and we shouldn’t try to avoid them, they are part of the journey. You are suddenly childless; but, you are still a parent. The focus of your life has changed, and finding new focus is the most difficult challenge that you will probably ever face, but do not lose hope. It is achievable.
Parents who have lost their only child to homicide come to learn that, “memories are the precious gifts of the heart…[that they need] these memories and whispers, to help create a sense of inner peace, a closeness” (Wisconsin Perspectives Newsletter, Spring 1989, 1).